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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

86                             THE GAY GENIUS

stumped, "I can tell you why," said Su Tungpa "The Book of Poetry
says [in a poem of satire]:

'O turtledove! O turtledove!

He has seven young.'

>

The seven young, plus their two parents, make nine, don't you see?"
The character for "waves" or "ripples" is written with the classifier
radical designating water, and a phonetic component which happens to
denote skin. It struck Wang's fertile imagination that the character for
ripples was so constructed because "ripples were the skin of water". Su
Tungpo met him one day and wittily remarked: "If so, then the word
for slippery must be constructed that way because it means the bones
of water!' (The phonetic component in this case happens to mean
bones,) Wang Anshih violated the very elementary principles of the?
structure of the Chinese literary symbols. The way he mutilated a
"root", riving it in half and misconnecting it with another component,
as he did in the character for "rich" (jfo), would make any philologist
weep.

Some Chinese scholars of later days, following Western ideas of
collectivism, have tried to rescue Wang Anshih from historical infamy
and revise his reputation upward by showing that his ideas were
essentially "in conformity with modern socialism".* Among those who
took up the defence of Wang Anshih was a great modern scholar,
Liang Chichao. It would be possible to argue the pros and cons of?
Wang's socialistic ideas, but Wang's socialistic regime must be judged
by its results. The facts are that in place of "private monopoly" the
state set up its own monopoly; small business-men were thrown out
of jobs, and farmers, unable to repay the compulsory loans or keep up
the interest, sold their wives and children or fled, and their neighbours
who were made guarantors of the loans fled with them or sold or
mortgaged their properties. The country jails were full, every district
government found thousands of closed mortgages and confiscated
properties on its hands, and lawsuits filled the courts. It was a mis-
rule that would have ruined any dynasty, even if there were no foreigrr
invaders. In 1074 an imperial edict said that business was at a stand-
still and people were thrown out of their jobs; and another edict inj
1076, which stopped the loans, said that many were jailed and flogged
for failure to repay them. In a memorandum sent in June, 1090, some
twenty years later, when he was trying to salvage the economic
wreckage left of the countryside and begging for restoration of con-

*-For the argument advanced in defence'of Wang, see brief statement in
Section K, Bibliography.